These days life is sailing by faster than I can catch my breath, and I'm tired of running out of vanilla extract. I'm developing recipes for my gluten-free and dairy-free cookbook, and there is never enough vanilla. I shop at several different grocery stores hunting and gathering for my family, and each place carries different brands of vanilla. It's not as easy as it used to be to pick out just any vanilla because I need to be certain it's gluten-free. Most vanilla extracts aren't labeled gluten-free, so I have to take the extra step and research which are safe.
Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans and commonly a form of grain alcohol. I try to stay away from corn based alcohols, and I’m not convinced the vanilla extract made from wheat, barley, or rye based alcohol is actually gluten-free as the distillation process is uncertain. So, I'm taking charge and making a large batch to brew slowly in my dark pantry for a few months. If the groundhog sees its shadow, the extract will be ready just as spring comes around.
- Plan ahead as it takes a few months to brew.
- I prefer a squat-shaped, clear glass bottle because it's not tippy, and I can watch the vanilla get darker and richer over time.
- Vanilla extract makes a unique gift to have on hand.
- My alcohol choice is potato vodka and since I'm from Maine, my favorite is Cold River Vodkamade with Maine potatoes and water from Maine’s Cold River. Now I live on the west coast, so today I'm using Panache Vodka made in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cayman Blue Vodka is another choice that's certified gluten-free and made from sugar cane. Check out this website for a current list of gluten-free vodka options: www.celiacdisease.about.com
Ready, Set, Go!
- 8.5 oz glass bottle
- 8 oz vodka, gluten-free
- 8 vanilla beans
- Slice vanilla beans from top to bottom to expose the inside flesh. Then cut vanilla beans into lengths small enough to fit into your container.
- Pour the vodka over the vanilla beans.
Store in a dark, cool place for 8 weeks to steep. As you use up the vanilla, just add more vodka and beans to your concoction. Always keep the liquid level above the beans.